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tv   Nightline  ABC  January 17, 2011 11:35pm-12:05am PST

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. . . tonight on "nightline," fatal venture. an eagle scout candidate sets out on a guided hike on a hot day with terrible consequences. now his parents are suing. the boy scout leaders insist that scouting is safe. so is it? animal house. what do you get when you get a lyon with a tiger. this flesh-eating beast. we meet hercules and some other unusual hybrids. ligers and wholpins and zedonks, oh my. he describes his time with his wife in an exclusive interview with diane sawyer. an early look.
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good evening, i'm terry moran. almost 3 million young people belong to the boy scouts and collectively they spend millions of hours a year outdoors. on most excursions the greatest hazards scouts face are mosquito bites or campfire ghost stories scare, but on several high-profile occasions now going back to the 1990s things have gone terribly wrong and the question then becomes who if anyone is at fault? here's john donvan for our series "nightlight investigates." >> reporter: their famous motto, be prepared. first on the list of virtues is the word trustworthy. >> to keep myself physically strong mentally awake and morally straight. >> reporter: including a
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17-year-old boy named michael sclawy-adelman. so he had a goal. >> certainly. >> he wanted to be an eagle. >> reporter: which is a hard thing to do. but because of what happened to michael on his way to eagle scouting's highest rank achieved by only a very few. how close was he. >> pretty close. >> reporter: because he never made it and because of what went wrong his parents are now challenging that which the scouts earned through decades of providing life lessons some of whom famous now call scouting one of the best parts of their lives they are challenging the trustworthiness of scouting itself. >> it just came down to us trusting in the boy scouts. >> reporter: so you always trust in the boy scouts. >> oh sure. >> reporter: a trust they now say was fatally misplaced. what do you remember? >> i dropped him off.
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>> reporter: michael's last hike was scheduled as a 20-miler through the big cypress national preserve. it hit a high of 92. michael was his parents say in fit physical condition and determined to do that hike. >> i spoke to him on the phone while they were on the their to the church to be dropped off and the last thing he said to me was i love you. >> reporter: the hikers set off at approximately 9:00 that morning. three boys led by scout masters harold crompton and andrew schmidt who noticed that the heat was getting to the boys at 1:00 when the hike was half complete. they were not heating much because they were extremely hot crompton told police. in his own handwriting he described the ordeal that began at mile 15. he seemed to seem dizzy. we had him sit down. after 20 minutes he got worse. he seemed to be choking. i turned him on his side. he vomited. i cleared his mouth.
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he stopped breathing. an hour and a half after stopping the hike, he placed a call on his cell phone. >> 911, what is the address of your emergency? >> the florida trail. we're hiking in the everglades. got a guy, he's not breathing. >> the guy's not breathing? >> yes sir. >> reporter: crompton had been performing cpr on him for 45 minutes by the time the rescue helicopter reached him. by then he had no pulse. he was air-lifted out but half an hour later, he was declared dead. >> their son dying during a hike on a hot day in the everglades. >> now a mother and father -- >> reporter: this is how the community learned about his death but his parents' account of how they learned is the stuff of nightmares. >> the sheriff knocked on the door and he said michael, and he died. then my daughter -- my husband came home and he told them, their screams just still ring in
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my ears because they were screaming and collapsing to the ground. we never heard from the scouts. >> reporter: that night you never heard from them, the next day? >> one of them harold crompton called about midday. >> reporter: having to place that call was no doubt another nightmare that those two lead the scout troop and had been trusted for years by scores of parents. only now they are being sued by michael's parents. >> they're supposed to be trained to recognize, you know signs and symptoms. at some point he told them he didn't feel well and they finally stopped. from the time they stopped to the time they recorded the 911 call it was an hour and a half. >> reporter: you were counting on their expertise. >> right, not to press on regardless for another five miles if you're showing signs of heat and disorientation. >> reporter: the suit that names the scoutmasters and the local church that sponsors michael's
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troop and the boy scouts of america was filed by mark sylvester, who brought this case to our attention. >> this is not way condemnation of the boy scouts. they are a very worthwhile organization and instill good values in our children but at the same time they have flaws. children are dying and being severely injured. this is not the first death on a hike. >> i can't imagine for a parent to lose their son but what i can tell you is the boy scouts is so proactive in everything they do with regards to safety. there's risks in everything we do in life. >> reporter: kathy burns is one of a trio of leaders the organization assembled when we asked for an interview. the scouts insisted that it be three people and set 30 minutes as a limit. >> and my mom had two sons that had gone through the program many they're both eagle scouts. >> reporter: can you tell me with complete certainly and security that i can put my kids into a scouting program and something like this isn't going to happen? >> absolutely. this is a safe program.
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>> reporter: michael's case they said reasonably they could not discuss as it's now in litigation. but the adelmans' attorney said the scouts have been negligent gent before and point out half a dozen cases of scouts dying during activities going back to the 1990s, struck in lightning where thunderstorms were forecast or drowning in in water s waters or dying while hiking in parts of the grand canyon. it was frustrating for both ends when i brought these cases up. richard borland, the national health and safety chief is relatively new to the position and unfamiliar with many of the facts. >> you know, i wasn't here when that occurred. >> reporter: as were his colleagues. >> i can't speak to the decision-making process. i wasn't involved. >> reporter: there was a tendency as we discussed the 2005 scout jamboree where hundreds suffered heat exhaustion after waiting hours in sunlight to hear a speech by
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a delayed president bush. a tendency to emphasize the rescue after the fact, the reaction to the calamity. >> we had an awesome medical team, response team and physicians and nurses and emts and did an excellent job taking care of the scouts who were presented with headache or some minor symptoms. >> you also had a great response mechanism in place which could in theory have triggered those numbers because we had the right professionals there to make sure those kids that went down with some kind of heat symptoms were well. >> reporter: so that happened, all of those kids go down. after the jamboree is over what happens inside the organization? >> i don't know really how to answer that specific question. >> reporter: well, did you have a meeting about it. >> i wasn't here but i will tell you that what happened as a result of those after action reports were conducted. we went through those. we looked for lessons learned, if you will. we studied what happened.
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we formulated plans. safety is integral into all of our programs. >> reporter: which is the very reason that these incidents stand out. >> yes there is. >> reporter: scouts put in collectively millions of hours per year in the wilderness, no one getting seriously hurt. not surprising because of the near constant stress on safety. so that when someone does get hurt, it seems to require explanation. and if it's your kid who got hurt, the explanation that this mother of scouts finally offered may or may not satisfy. >> i think we're saying there's risks involved in everything you do in life and in boy scouts we take a proactive approach. everything we do is looking at what could happen, what are the risks involved, how do we prepare. >> reporter: i'm asking a different question. are you saying what that is really down to is sometimes things just happen? >> there are circumstances that are beyond our control but that's where our training kicks in and that's where we use those skills that we've learned to kick in. >> reporter: are you saying the
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scout organization has never been at fault. no scoutmaster has ever made a mistake in terms of preparation ahead of time. none of these things are ever the result of a scoutmaster that didn't get it right or policy that wasn't fully developed? >> that responsibility is a joint responsibility. boy scouts work with the parents who are sending the scouts on the outings who know the scouts the best but the scouts have the responsibility to learn the skills and prepare themselves physically. the leaders who are trained and who train the scouts and the community organizations that work with us so we all share responsibility to make things as safe as possible. >> reporter: which is what michael's parents thought he would be that day, as safe as possible and home by sundown. their good-bye that morning never meant to be final, but it was. i'm john donvan for "nightline." >> safety and the boy scouts thanks to john donvan for that report. when we come back we're going to shift gears a bit and take a look at very exotic
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hybrid animals have long existed in the imagination from those beasts of greek mythology to the creations of modern-day science fiction but also exist in real life in some rather unusual combinations and in some rather intimidating one, as well so here's vicki mabrey of an
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encore presentation of "into the wild." >> reporter: at zoos and on safari, you can see all the big animals, plenty of lions and tigers and zebras oh my. but you'll have to travel deep into the wilds of myrtle beach, south carolina, to see this. this big guy is a liger. yes, a liger and trainer doc antle and partner rajani have the biggest in the world. >> this is hercules. 900 pounds and 12 feet tall. a guy began tick kid because he is a liger. father lion mother tiger, makes him -- >> reporter: father did a lion. mother is a tiger. >> makes him a liger. >> that's a good boy. >> reporter: for all you nonbelievers they really do exist. >> what are you drawing? >> a liger. >> reporter: as we learn from the film "napoleon dynamite."
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>> what's a liger? >> pretty much my favorite animal like a lion and tiger mixed. skills and magic. >> hercules. >> come on. >> come on hercules. >> you are ready. you must be hungry. >> stretch them out. >> reporter: hercules is skilled at, well eating. about 100 pounds of meat a day. but to see that muscled magnificent stretched out more than one story tall is magic, indeed. >> the "napoleon dynamite" made an awareness of ligers and made people have an interest in the natural world and made a un corporal come to life. >> reporter: unicorns are mythical but hybrids are very real. what is a mule if not a combination of the horse and dofk ki but a liger? there are only about a dozen in the whole world. >> oh how are you? he has these stripes and spots all over him but young lions
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have. in him he has more of a tiger pattern to his head that has some spotting in the middle of it. >> reporter: he doesn't have a mane. >> but in many ways he is just kind of 50/50 and it's a blend. it's not one trait and another added together. >> reporter: these mixes happen naturally doc says not through artificial insemination. naturally in a nature preserve but not typically in the wild. >> in the wild lions and tigers don't cross territory so it's not a thing that there are wild ligers although there are many wild hybrids. wild wholpins have happened. a whale and dolphin. >> reporter: wait a minute a wholphin. the sea park life in hawaii is home to the only known wolfin in the world. he is the daughter of a whale and bottle nose dolphin and there are more. the cama one-half cam, one-half
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llama. the wolfdog. that one is pretty obvious and the beefalo, the combination of a buffalo and a cow. and these are the shapely striped legs of a zebra, right? nope. this is a zorse. half zebra, half horse. >> this is just a mule of a different color. >> reporter: lloyd big raises them zedonks outside texas. >> conventional mules help build the country and everybody is used to the idea of an animal that can't reproduce. >> reporter: they may not reproduce but they're still the issue of ethics and evolution. how do these hybrids fit into the natural order? >> hybrids that are created between good species because humans bring them together and let them reproduce do not fit
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into the natural order. >> reporter: is he going to have a normal life span? >> everything about him seems exaggerated. they seem to live longer, eat more. we've never seen anything happen in the ligers except bigger stronger faster. >> reporter: but why create these exotic species. he views them as wildlife ambassadors. >> in present day their real place is awe and wonder which i hope leads to an interest in the natural world. >> reporter: i'm vicki mabrey for "nightline" in myrtle beach, south carolina. >> thanks to vicki mabrey her brave camera and crew there on hybrid animals. up next natalie cole talks about her new book and some of her favorite songs but did "un "unforgettable" make the cut? ♪ in every way ♪ well, hotels know they can't fill every room every day. like this one. and this one. and oops, my bad. so,
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she is the famous daughter of one of the most famous performers of all time and a star in her own right but in recent years, she's come close to losing everything. she tells the story in her new book "love brought me back" which is in stores now. here's natalie cole for tonight's "playlist." ♪ woo unforgettable un unforgettable ♪ ♪ in every way in every way ♪ >> when we decided to record the song "unforgettable" it was one of 22 songs that we were going to record for this record. it's a great song to do.
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i mean it's a lovely lovely song to do. i know what it means for everyone when i do that song. it's not really one of my favorite songs but it's the song that turned my career around. height haji haji haji ♪ >> the other song that my father used to sing is from a movie called "ali baba and the 40 thieves." it's the craziest song that you ever heard. he was always experimenting. he wasn't afraid to try something that nobody else would think of so that to me was dad underneath all that sophistication and elegance there was this other kooky guy who liked to do that kind of stuff. ♪ our love will stand tall as the trees ♪ ♪ our love ♪
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>> "our love." i was pregnant with my son when i recorded that song. at the time i was married to my son's dad who was writing a good majority of my music at the time and that was our song. he was just a cool guy all the way around. when he would walk into the room the place would just light up. my real true love. ♪ let's take it nice and easy ♪ ♪ it's going to be so easy ♪ >> "nice and easy." that was a wonderful song that i loved that he did. i did call him uncle frank which he allowed me to do because i was young. the thing i loved most about frank was sitting down with him and having him tell me stories about pie father which i will always cherish. there was always this competition, this talk of competition between him and my father, but the truth is that they were both gentlemen, they were both brilliant. they were both great artists and they both loved each other dearly, so there was no
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competition. ♪ i never lost my prayer ♪ >> i was at death's door and i didn't even know it. there was a song that actually someone had turned me on to called "i never lost my praise" and it is sung by a wonderful gospel singer named tremain hawkins. if you ask some of my friends who were around me during that time, they will tell you that i never asked why did this happen to me? i never asked why did god do this to me? and i did not ever lose my praise. ♪ oh gravity is working against me ♪ >> it might surprise my fans to know that i'm a big fan of john mayer. he is a great musician. i've seen him play guitar with people like b.b. king and it just wore me out because here's a white guy that has more soul
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than some black guys i know. and it's not like he's in new orleans or something like harry connick or or something. he's from connecticut, so go figure. you just never know where you're going to find the talent. ♪ like me back ♪ ♪ love brought me back ♪ tonight, matt leblanc is here and julie bengz and we'll witness a man lathering himself with shaving cream. why not. 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